Tony Black reviews issue #8 of The X-Files: Season 10 comic run, ‘Being for the Benefit of Mr. X’…
Written by Joe Harris
Art by Michael Walsh
Some have accused Joe Harris’ Season 10 as being very prone to fan-service, and issues like ‘Being for the Benefit of Mr. X’ do admittedly help you see that argument. On the face of it, the whole piece is constructed as a blatant attempt to bring Mr. X back into the picture, many years after his death in Season 4 premiere ‘Herrenvolk’. This isn’t the first time, of course – on the show he reappeared in Season 5’s ‘Unusual Suspects’ in not too dissimilar fashion to this story actually, and later appeared as either a ghost or figment of Mulder’s subconscious in Season 9 finale ‘The Truth’. We all know X was a classic character in The X-Files, so you can’t blame Harris for wanting to use him, and here he just about gets away with it.
Mainly because he mostly utilises X in flashbacks to the year 1987, where we see an experiment taking place in a small-town school where children have been intentionally infected with Purity, the extra-terrestrial substance that makes up the Black Oil virus intended to unleash a viral apocalypse on Earth come colonisation. It’s a grim opening with X essentially witness to children blowing their own heads off, before covering up the crime, but it provides an essential window into his rationale and reasons for later helping Mulder on the X-Files.
The scenes flesh out an X so appalled by what the Syndicate is prepared to do, as so callously depicted in scenes with the Cigarette-Smoking Man drawn in washed out, almost sepia tones well by Michael Walsh, that he’s on the verge of going to the Washington Post with what he knows. It’s ironically Deep Throat who saves him from his own certain execution, quite brilliantly written by Harris (you can hear Jerry Hardin in your head as you read) as Deep Throat essentially places X on the road to succeeding him as Mulder’s informant. These are the kind of flashbacks that wouldn’t organically fit in the show, and while they are admittedly fan service to bring back iconic supporting players, they also add some flesh on the backstories of these people without eroding their sense of mystery.
It’s not all flashbacks, however, as in the present day Mulder begins looking into a tether to this 1987 case and we do get a few new connections to Harris’ new mythology. It allows Mulder and Scully to revisit Mulder’s old apartment in Virginia, a major set during the course of the show, and it’s a neat reversal of old tropes he used during Seasons 2 & 3 to contact X and seek out information. Scully discovers a new strain of Purity being developed while Mulder encounters X once more, but in a most unusual way which ties back to the strange manner he met the Smoking Man in ‘Believers’ – are these supposedly dead men now alien replacements or shapeshifters of some kind? There’s clearly more to it but X’s ultimate fate here certainly compounds the mystery.
Though an episode very much designed to please the legion of X-Philes past more than future, ‘Being for the Benefit of Mr X’ is both a fascinating curio and important little solitary mytharc episode all in one, and indicative of how Joe Harris–like The X-Files show itself–is unafraid to mix up the formula and try and wrong-foot us as readers. Come the end, you’ll be left happy to see some old, long lost faces, and fascinated to what the mythology implications may be.
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